Why was there no caboose on 19th Century passenger trains?

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Why was there no caboose on 19th Century passenger trains?
Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, January 25, 2004 11:56 AM
Being rather new to railroad history (or should I say late at age 56), I'm curious as to why passenger trains of the 1860's to 1890's did not include a caboose?

If the caboose served as a working and living platform for the conductor, brakeman, flagman, etc., were these people not needed on the lighter passenger trains?

Perhaps these crewmen used a "combo car" on a passenger train?

Just curious!

John Canino
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Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, January 25, 2004 4:15 PM
A caboose would normally be associated with a freight train or a "mixed" train. The weight of a caboose, although not that heavy, would be extra weight on a high speed passenger train. The smaller engines were "taxed" enough with the weight of the passenger cars.
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Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, January 25, 2004 8:15 PM
Dear J. Canino,
Welcome to the hobby!

You may notice that most freight trains of the 19th century appear to have no caboose, but in actuality they do. It's just that back then cabboses had no cupola (that elevated part up high where everyone loves to sit). They were just no-frills accomodations.

The cupola was actually invented in Britain, when a British conductor noticed a hole in his roof. He piled several boxes up, stuck his head out the roof, and behold, an American icon was born---an ocean away! By the end of the nineteenth century, cupolas became common because they enabled train crews to look over their trains.

I hope I have helped,
Daniel
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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, January 26, 2004 9:49 AM
Jim has done a pretty good job of answering your question. However, it should also be noted that not just the passenger trains of the 19th century, but the 20th century as well, did not have cabooses. As Jim stated, cabooses are indended for freight or mixed trains.
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Posted by AltonFan on Monday, January 26, 2004 10:31 AM
Some passenger trains had dormatory cars for the train crew, although I suspect this was primarily for service personnel. (Cooks, waiters, porters, etc.)

I would gather that a frieght conductor had a lot more paperwork and planning to do than a frieght conductor who had to supervise the switching of frieght cars, signing of bills of lading. Passenger trains did consdierably less switching, that usually involved railroad logistics or connections with other trains.

Dan

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Posted by michaelstevens on Monday, January 26, 2004 11:09 AM
QUOTE: Originally posted by J.Canino

Perhaps these crewmen used a "combo car" on a passenger train?




John's presumption is correct (with respect to either side of the Atlantic) -- the guard/conductor/brakeman rode in the combination brake/luggage/parcels/passenger car or van -- it was usually the last car (except when "slip coaches" may have been added) in the train.
The original primary purpose was the same as that for the caboose, prior to train (air or vacuum) braking systems -- i.e. to provide supplementary braking, for the train.

British Mike in Philly
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Posted by orsonroy on Monday, January 26, 2004 10:10 PM
Cabooses are rolling offices. Passenger cars provide the space required for the conductor to do his paperwork, and someplace for the flaggers and brakemen to sit (you think passenger trains were EVER full to capacity?), so there was no need for a train to lug a purposeless car on a passenger train.

And according to the books I have, the old hole in the roof "invention" of the cupola on a caboose is attributable to a B&O conductor in the 1850s, making the cupola caboose a wholly American invention. Amazing how old wives tales get around, eh?

Ray Breyer

Modeling the NKP's Peoria Division, circa 1943

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Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, February 07, 2004 1:46 PM
Boy, I guess I’ve come to the right site for answers. Thanks to all for the wealth of information!

As to the invention of the cupola on cabooses, I have to agree with Ray Breyer. I too have read that the cupola was a U.S. railroad invention. The Brits appear to have had an elevated landing, or perch, but it placed them in the open, outside their cabooses. Their covering, or cupola appears to come come several years later than ours. I guess the debate will go on for some time.

I came across an old letter, in amongst the papers and books my grandfather had given me back in the 50’s. I thought it might be of interested to many of you. He wrote to a Mr. Richard Teller Crane of the Crane Co., a plumbing supplies manufacturer. I’ve transcribed it verbatim. I have also included an additional line or two where he refers to Native Americans for all of you “general history” buffs.

This letter is dated, May 5, 1896
------------------------------------------

Dear Mr. Crane,

My trip to Los Angeles has been delayed a few days due to an unfortunate incident on the train this morning, a few miles outside of Phoenix. Once I have landed in Los Angeles and have inspected several properties, I will wire you with the results and recommendations. While I am here, in Phoenix, I believe I shall take the opportunity to see what business might be conducted. Phoenix appears to be quite a busy town.

Just outside of town, our train came to an abrupt halt sending several passengers nearly to the floor; fortunately, without injury. The engineer told us he had spotted an abandoned wagon on the track up ahead and tried to stop in time but was not able as his brakeman had fallen asleep in the parcel coach and was not paying attention to his duties. The much embarrassed engineer told us the brakeman would not be working for the line much longer. While we did not derail, the incident was most unsettling and it took nearly an hour to finally arrive at Phoenix Station. We shall be here a few days while they inspect the train for damage and affect any necessary repairs.

-----------------------------------------------

My grandfather referred to the brakeman as being in the "Parcel Coach." Does anyone know what a parcel coach is? Is it even a common railroad term?
Could this be what substituted for a caboose on a passenger train?

The other interesting, non railroad, item of historical interest in his letter refers to striking up an acquaintance with a federal Indian Agent in the seat next to him.

He says, quote:

I have struck an acquaintance with an agent of the federal government whose job it is; to oversee relations with the Indians and see to it they stay on the lands provided to them. He has asked me to accompany him to one of the reservations in the fall to meet the Sioux Indian Chief, Sitting Bull. He tells me the man is quite wise and full of good humor considering the toll which has been exacted upon his people. When I expressed concern, he told me that these people were not quite the fearsome heathens that the periodicals have lead us to believe. He said they were a kind and generous people with quite a well developed sense of themselves. He said they…

At your convenience, I should like to take a day or two to accompany him before returning to Chicago.

Sincerly,

Clyde Ketchum

----------------------------------

There is much more about the Indians and their thoughts about Americans in this three page letter which I will provide on request but it’s a bit much for this message.


John Canino
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Posted by AltonFan on Saturday, February 07, 2004 10:18 PM
QUOTE: My grandfather referred to the brakeman as being in the "Parcel Coach." Does anyone know what a parcel coach is? Is it even a common railroad term?
Could this be what substituted for a caboose on a passenger train?


This is the first I've heard of the term "Parcel Coach". My guess is that this car was used for less-than-carload express shipments (the sort of business now handled by UPS, Airborne, DHS, and FedEx).

Some freight cabooses, especially those used on branchlines, had facilities for this type of freight. It seems likely to me that on 19th century passenger trains, this car would be a logical place for the conductor to set up his office.

Dan

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Posted by Anonymous on Sunday, February 08, 2004 1:12 PM
On many later era trains, there was an express boxcar which would run at the very head of the cars. Sometimes it was owned by the Railway Express Agency, other times by the railways themselves. Could the Parcell Car be an old term for this? Just a thought....

Sincerely,
Daniel
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Posted by Granny74 on Sunday, February 08, 2004 9:01 PM
John Canino:
Thank you so much for sharing that letter from your grandfather. Bob and I really enjoyed reading it. Isn't it great to be able to have old letters and other items from our family history? You have a treasure there in that letter. I am sure that your grandfather had an interesting visit with the agent. Do you have info on whether he was able to go with the agent to the reservations?
also welcome to the forum. This is a great group of people. I am sure you will really enjoy it. Bob and I have learned a lot from the people here . We feel like they are our friends even thought we have not met them personally.
Again thanks for sharing and for your question.
Nance and Bob from AZ
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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, February 09, 2004 12:13 PM
To nance69,

As to actually meeting Sitting Bull? Yes, in October of that year, my grandfather accompanied the agent to the reservation. He both wrote the stories down for me and told me verbally.

He recalled sitting in a large circle with the "Indians," as he called them, on Sitting Bulls right side with the agent on the left. After several stories and a few "war dances," as he called them (later known to be simply "Dances"), the "squaw’s" handed a large bowl of meal (of some type) to the agent. He dipped his hand into it and ate a small amount then passed it to his left. When the bowl finally reached my grandfather, he got sick to his stomach, seeing all those dirty hands go into the same bowl.

Sitting Bull, seeing his reaction laughed out loud and told one of the "squaw’s" to take the heroic warrior to his "house" (Tipi) and lay him down a spell. When my grandfather looked up he saw that the tipi had many war trophies and "scalps" hanging on its walls, he "lost" it! Much to the amusement of the Chief and everyone!

The agent, who became a good friend of my grandfather, would later tell him that the incident caused the "indians" much amusement and they would retell the story of "Sour Belly" many times thereafter.

Yes, having lived from 1872 to 1969, my grandfather saw and experienced a lot of history and change. His father, a Civil War Captain under Grant, knew President grant well and took my grandfather to see him shortly before he passed away. Sitting on Grant's knee, the President asked my grandfather if he could read. When my grandfather answered that he did, Grand handed him a copy of his recently published memoirs. and signed them! "To Everette Clyde Ketchum" from Ulysses S. Grant.
I now have those two volumes.

I am in the process of compiling all his writings and stories into a manuscript. As he rode the rails a lot in the early days, I've been searching for clues about early railroading in his writings.

He was a man of many honors and contributions to history. Long Beach, California mentions him in a history of Long Beach that was published about 20 years ago.

As I find more "mentions" of railroad stuff, I'm sure I will have more question!

Again, Thanks to all,

John Canino
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Posted by Anonymous on Monday, February 16, 2004 8:41 PM
I MISS CABOOSES!!!!!!!!!!!

CARPENTER MATT

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